Cancer Survivor's Inspiring "Mask of Courage" Evokes Hope

Vol. 16, No. 3
Summer/Fall 2006

  • Scoliosis Patient Stands Taller after Complex Surgeries

  • Winthrop Specialists Named to Top Doctors List

  • Renovation Project Extended Thanks to Senator Balboni

  • Winthrop Opens Beautifully Expanded Admitting Office

  • ER & Cardiac Team's Exceptional Response Time Saves Father of Two

  • Winthrop Plays Major Role in County-Wide Emergency Preparedness Drill

  • Winthrop's Department of Pediatrics Admitted to Prestigious National Association

  • Don't let obesity take you from them

  • Cancer Survivor's Inspiring "Mask of Courage" Evokes Hope

  • Winthrop Appoints Board of Directors Chairman

  • Former Winthrop President Passes Away

  • CyberKnife Restores Mother's Hearing and Preserves Grandfather's Active Lifestyle

  • Winthrop Introduces Toilet-Training Program

  • Winthrop First LI Hospital to Pioneer Use of Advanced Physician Order Entry Technology

  • Citigroup Foundation and Garden City Family Support Cancer Center for Kids

  • Charlie's Champions Rally in Support of Cancer Center for Kids

  • Horticultural Therapy Program Branches Out Thanks to Fidelity Investments

  • West Islip Family Thanks Pediatric Center

  • Garden City Second Grader Dedicates Birthday to Young Patients

  • Jets Fans' Contributions Benefit Pediatric Patients

  • Kids for Care Hosts Dinner Supporting Pediatric ER Patients

  • Diabetes Education Center Partners with American Idol Celebrity for Important Discussion

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  • L-R: John Spellman, a cancer survivor, presents the "Mask of Courage" to Elaine Montchal, RN, Winthrop's CyberKnife Coordinator.

    During the past two years, Garden City resident John Spellman has faced not one but two health crises. In the winter of 2005, the 61-year-old attorney underwent 33 external radiation beam therapy sessions at Winthrop's Radiation Oncology Center to treat his thyroid cancer, which had spread to his lymph nodes.

    "Then, when I was getting scans to make sure everything was good, they found a brain tumor," he said.

    His motto: Bring it on.

    In the fall of the same year, Mr. Spellman became one of Winthrop's first patients to be treated for his brain tumor using CyberKnife(R), the most advanced radiosurgery technology available for patients, including many who have exhausted all other treatment options. Winthrop is the first hospital in the New York metropolitan region to acquire CyberKnife, and continues to be the only hospital in the region offering this therapy.

    Coupling two advanced technologies--cruise-missile guidance technology and flexible robotics--CyberKnife delivers targeted, high-dose radiation beams to tumors and lesions--many in sites previously unreachable by other radiation systems.

    "When CyberKnife treatment was first suggested, I researched it and thought it was great. I was fortunate enough to get into the program," Mr. Spellman explained. "The treatment was painless. There was no discomfort, and no impact on skin, and they didn't have to screw a metal frame into my head.

    "Today, I am doing really well," he continued. "My scans are good, and six months following my CyberKnife treatment, it appears the tumor is breaking down."

    Moving Forward with Inspiration

    "Sitting in the CyberKnife Center's waiting room, I'd watch patients come in: some had fire in their eyes and others seemed a little concerned and depressed," he recalled.

    L-R: John Spellman, a cancer survivor, presents the "Mask of Courage" to Elaine Montchal, RN, Winthrop's CyberKnife Coordinator.

    That eye-opening experience incited in Mr. Spellman a desire to create a symbol of hope that could touch the lives of many while uniting all affected by cancer.

    Mr. Spellman requested to keep the radiation mask that was used during his treatments. With it, he crafted a "Mask of Courage," which he fastened on a bulletin board to be adorned with pins symbolizing strength and spirit. He presented his creation to Elaine Montchal, RN, CyberKnife Coordinator, at Winthrop's recent Cancer Survivors' Day celebration.

    "The idea behind the mask is that we all inspire each other while we face what is coming," he explained. "Anyone entering the Center is encouraged to place a special pin to either remember someone or to simply become part of this brother- and sisterhood."

    Several mementos already surround the "Mask of Courage," which resides in the Center's lobby. One is a Claddagh pin--the Irish symbol of love, loyalty and friendship--that Ms. Montchal gave to Mr. Spellman after his therapy ended.

    On St. Patrick's Day, he proudly wore the gift when he sang Irish songs at a local venue. The anticipated performance was a joyful celebration of life.

    "While he was going through therapy we discussed the music and event to keep his mind off of the treatment," Ms. Montchal explained. "I never expected him to rededicate the pin. I was honored, and the staff was very excited to accept his gift. We were truly touched by it.

    "Each pin has a story behind it," she continued. "You don't know how powerful and touching this will be to all who place a pin. And, I have no doubt that we are going to fill the board with many more mementos."

    When that inevitably occurs, Mr. Spellman plans to create additional boards with patients' donated CyberKnife masks.

    Those interested in donating pins, should contact Ms. Montchal at For more information about Winthrop's CyberKnife, call 1-866-WINTHROP.

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